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Cooking up Viral Pizza Sensations in the Kitchen w/ Bryan Nittayo of Rose City Pizza

Brian Nittayo of Rose City Pizza talks about the inception of some of the viral culinary creations to come out of the kitchen such as the elote pizza, the birria pizza, and the lasagna grilled cheese. Brian shares the challenges of building out a restaurant and running 2 restaurants at the same time.

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In this episode

Brian Nittayo Shares His Creative Culinary Journey at Rose City Pizza.

Rose City Pizza founder Brian Nittayo sits down with host Alex to discuss the viral pizza creations that have made his restaurants famous. Learn how Rose City’s popular elote pizza, birria pizza, and lasagna grilled cheese sandwiches came to be.

Brian also opens up about the highs and lows of launching and operating two pizzerias in Rosemead and Covina, California. He touches on hiring challenges, restaurant culture, even getting assaulted at a Primus show.

Through it all, Brian’s passion for the pizza business shines through. He says, “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”

Listen to the full PIE 2 PIE interview to hear more of Brian’s insightful stories and creative culinary vision. His innovative pies have earned Rose City Pizza a passionate local following.

Episode Transcript

(00:00) we’re back episode three season one pie to pie with Brian nittayo of Rose City Pizza Rose City Pizza in Rosemead has been around since 2009. Brian is a very knowledgeable person who has been in the pizza industry for a very long time he did some work in New York before opening his shop up in Rosemead we actually met face to face for the first time at Pizza Expo last year and it was so nice for him to come down here check out the Pizza Masters eat some pizza with me and we had our conversation at hot tongue I hope you
(00:34) enjoy this conversation as much as I had having it thanks again to Brian Rose City Pizza forever hope you enjoy we have the incredible Brian from Rose City Pizza you know the deal 15 questions about one minute to answer each one we’re gonna start it off with a gift all right I got these for you these are tiny hands I’ve seen them making pizzas I hope that maybe we see a reel or some video coming soon of uh of Brian using these at a shop if not oh heck yeah if not just that I’m sure your kids would enjoy them they’re pretty
(01:15) funny to use yeah oh I love you give yourself a round of applause anyways thank you for doing this yeah I’m excited to have you here thanks for having me I was gonna come to Brian’s Shop but you want to come down and check out these ovens I’m glad that he made the trip because I was going to go all the way to Covina and I would have done it but thanks for coming down here yeah all right you ready hell yeah let’s do it all right how did the lasagna grilled cheese come to be oh it was my lunch one day uh
(01:45) explain that I I thought you know uh garlic bread and lasagna go well together why not combine it so I I sat down in the dining room area and people were everybody was rubbernecking me when I was eating it so you just you just put together that sandwich yeah you had lasagna and garlic bread and you just said yeah yeah let’s make this the same yeah and so there were rubber necking man and they were all like where can I order this or is it on the menu and I’m like well I might be on something so that’s how that happened is it is it
(02:16) one of the bigger sellers yeah yeah it’s one of our I mean so most of it aren’t of all the sandwiches okay yeah because that is something I I’ve only seen at your shop yeah no now fairies have it really yeah well fares yeah they probably fry it and stuff yeah yeah it’s very very creative idea thanks what kind of flower do you use and why that’s an interesting question I started off with all trumps so we went to absoluty and now I’m going to try some King Arthur Brands and uh chiral I’m
(02:45) gonna try that out today so I I don’t really have a flower right now but um I guess all trumps is what I always fall back on the winter wheat like the green bag yeah yeah okay yeah it’s well it’s like it’s a solid that’s awesome yeah it never it never lets you down no yeah okay but I’m I’m messing around with other stuff okay blending and stuff like that how do you feel about Yelp I hate yield I super hate it yeah I I hang up on the people that try to like you want ads on Yelp if I hang up on them but the other
(03:18) day the guy I hung up on he he actually called me back and said it was really rude of me and but I I super hate Yelp you know it’s rude that they leave like [  ] comments like I want to make a shirt that says if I could give zero Stars I would that’s just I would wear that just for fun yeah yeah yeah that’s that is pretty good because it makes the customers kind of like they can’t talk to you they have to go home and like blast you before they can even talk to you and that’s most of the time (03:49) what happens yeah yeah especially with like a negative review yeah you know all you want is to have that face-to-face conversation and make it right you know but um my wife does point out that I’ll go through the Yelp reviews and the five is like whatever whatever one star and then I’ll be like you know concentrate on the negative yeah it’s like you have mostly fives like why are you only on you know stuck on that one I think that’s normal yeah it’s that knife in your side yeah yeah yeah because you know I’m an owner that works (04:19) a store I actually really care and then I take it personal you know yeah yeah I know I I agree yeah which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would you be and why uh Raphael I don’t know I like the size I always I always love the size and I want to like [  ] pierce the pizza with a side okay yeah personality wise do you identify with Raphael yeah okay yeah he’s like outgoing and fun yeah a little more a little more serious though right it’s the more serious about the turtles yeah I would be yeah I’d be serious too most of the time
(04:56) I am serious I am Raphael at the store yeah but I’d like to go out and have fun outside the store because when you have too much fun then the seriousness goes away and people forget that they’re working yeah gets a little chaotic yeah yeah what’s a lesson that you can share uh like one of your biggest failures that that you really learned from I learned to uh just taking the business you can handle we came up with the elote pizza the birio pizza al pastor Pizza they went viral like 11 million views each
(05:32) and I was like hell yeah we’re slow bring it we need the business I need to pay rent I need to pay these people bring it and it just turned into a whole [  ] show where everyone’s all like where’s my pizza why is it taking too long oh you’re running out of stuff and then it just you know just made us look bad but if I’m like hey we got a limited amount of this and you can come in and try it during these times and we can make it the best we can and then we have happy people then like you know trying to be greedy (06:03) and get everybody come in all at one time and then try to serve everybody out all at one time and then just have a bunch of pissed off people yeah then that was the lesson I learned and those were failures because I got pizza thrown on the window oh right someone came from Arizona to try it and our window got broken the next day like a rock they threw a rock at it so it’s I I hate disappointing people yeah but you know on the flip side you want more business right but then I think you have to just take the business (06:33) you can handle were you not prepared for the influx of business and that was the that was the failure I I feel like that too dude for the video we just had one crock pot I mean I remember when you posted that I mean to me the elote I had never seen anyone other than you guys do it I see like it feels like everyone does one now yeah yeah but yeah so I feel like yeah I was definitely ill prepared like I underestimated the power of social media back then yeah no doubt I mean you guys have a strong following I mean you’re (07:05) just you have a strong presence oh thanks yeah yeah I mean the stuff that you guys do is like is is not the same as everything else you know yeah I don’t have this question but like how would you define the pizza that you make it’s uh it’s kind of like a Melting Pot yeah of everybody that works there okay well said everybody contributes we have a Peruvian guy we have a few Mexican guys um I’m part Filipino so I made a pizza that kind of stuff I I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley um you know largely (07:38) um Latino I was a token Asian and Latino fraternity I wanted to start a Mexican restaurant and they said you’d be do you do better in a pizzeria but then my love for Mexican food came out in the pizza yeah so well I mean that’s great like Fusion I think is like the coolest thing yeah and likes it’s fun yeah awesome dude um so you recently opened up your second location in Covina uh Covina uh what was the hardest part about getting that shop up well it used to be a florist and we were turning it into a restaurant so it a lot (08:17) of retrofitting it was uh the place was built in the early 1900s you take down the the all the stuff and you get to the bones it’s a lot of rot a lot of like yeah so it was um yeah it was crazy it was like a bad episode of like flip my house just finding shittier and shittier things that you gotta deal with yeah so yeah it was it was like we we got into a big hole opening that place yeah um opening it up no one really wanted to work I couldn’t find the workers so I I had to deal with like I couldn’t bring (08:52) my experience staff from Rosemead because they all live like blocks away from the original place so I opened with like younger kids and just trying to tailor um the cooking instructions and and the equipment and and the processes to um someone who’s never worked before was quite a challenge um I opened in Covina and Covina I feel like not too many people are open-minded about Fusion Foods they just want their pepperoni so I mean we’re killing it with pepperoni pizzas there it’s a little different though yeah but (09:26) I I’d rather sell my the ones I’m known for but you know if they want to get their feet wet with the Rose City with the pepperoni pizza fine yeah they’re already in the door yeah next time maybe they try yeah next time yeah what is your least favorite thing to make in your shop pepperoni pizza I hate it Peroni yeah and then the pepperonis touch and and when you get 10 pepperoni pizzas and then you get it it just I don’t know it slows everything down okay because with the Alpac story we weigh like a (10:00) pound throw it on the pizza next cheese you know sausage all good the pepperoni it’s like yeah what kind of pepperoni is uh LaGuardia okay yeah is there a reason do you not like cup and crisp it gets too greasy yeah yeah agreed yeah I mean pepperoni in general just gets really good but that’s like the that’s like the latest thing though people like the cup increase yeah the Char yeah and you got to do what you like yeah what is the greatest band of all time Primus um that was my first concert my first show (10:38) and I used to work at a gas station we all went there up one day and um I was standing at the edge of a mosh pit and a clown punched me in the face I never knew about wash pits or whatever and that was my introduction that yeah that is a hell of a way to be baptized yeah into the mosh yeah so I always get along with anybody like that loves Primus okay oh my God you live premise too yeah that’s cool what would you say that Rose City’s master plan is I feel like expand but I don’t know if you asked me this last (11:15) year I’d say 10 stores but now I I want to expense into more like catering into more um keep it small but get our name out in like little subtle ways so I feel like expanding that way okay yeah not like another five shops no yeah I hear you it gets diluted I feel like I’m already spread pretty thin so I don’t I don’t know if I could do any more you’re working at both yeah okay if you could have anything you wanted right now for your business what would it be maybe better processes um I mean rosemead’s like cruise control (11:52) but but Covina is kind of like kind of kind of like if you’re not there they don’t know what to do and they don’t have Direction and I you know I it’s kind of like more of a social Gathering there than coming into work so that’s my challenge right now and that would allow me more freedom to do what I want to do so maybe like you need us some strong leadership there yeah nobody really wants to do that step up nobody wants to take that on they’re kind of just like not me yeah yeah that’s tough yeah so I I gotta step in (12:27) and be the leader for now okay let me find somebody what inspires you as the chef and an owner uh making people happy um just like how we said the the whole Yelp review that that’s like a dagger in my heart every time I get a one star Yelp review um I know it’s just it’s just maybe one out of like 20 but you know um when I bump somebody out because the pizza wasn’t good or wasn’t their expectation that that really gets to me so the whole the whole thing is making people happy I love happy people like (12:57) besides the money it’s just it’s not even the money it’s like it’s people happy and then money here because I feel like if I make people happy everything else will fall into place yeah the money comes yeah what is what is one thing that every pizza maker should know it’s a hard business well I feel like in any business uh if you’re passionate about it you’re gonna you’re gonna spend most of your time you’re gonna live there like my home is like my second home my first home is (13:28) Rose City Pizza um sometimes I feel like just go home to sleep um and then do it all over again uh but yeah it’s uh it’s it’s a lot of work you miss out on a lot of things but it’s in the end like on the hardest day I’ll be I’ll be driving home like thinking like [  ] my life but then there’s nothing else I’d rather do yeah yeah so the double-edged sword yeah yeah what’s the secret to finding good team members you know what basically higher you get that buy the minute you sit
(14:03) across from them like okay this is a nice person hire for personality I feel like because if you get like some hot shot is like I’ve been a chef here I’ve been a chef there you’re just gonna try to run your kitchen and they’re not going to try to listen to you they’re going to try to do things how they think it should be done or how they saw it on Food Network [Laughter] what you’re trying to tell them yeah basically just hire nice people like good you know warm cuddly nice people nice yes like
(14:37) trustworthy yeah nice yeah doing nice people yeah yeah love it can you describe uh an authentic Los Angeles slice no but I’m about to try yours [Laughter] how would you explain the culture at Rose City very very teamwork oriented um we help each other out it’s not like the cashier is just a cashier the cashier could be helping the pizza guy the cook could be running food everybody help each other help see each other out um we’re we’re like one big team this is the last question what makes a good
(15:15) leader I feel like what makes a good leader is somebody who can get down and dirty with everybody um somebody who leads by example like we’ve all heard that but somebody who’s not not above anybody to do anything just just down for it you know what I mean so I I try to be that and I try to be that example and I I look for that in my leaders as well where do we go to check out Rose City uh Rosemeade 3588 Rosemead Boulevard off the 10 freeway and Covina uh off Grand 602 North Grand Instagram uh Rose City Pizza and
(15:53) Facebook The Rose City Pizza look us up Brian did thank you so much thank you appreciate it

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